Not for crazies.
Randall’s Island is what happens when a city can’t expand; undesirable space eventually becomes desirable. Most people probably know the island for the bridge that uses the island to help join three boroughs. And while the Manhattan Psychiatric Center may dominate the island with a long history here, the playgrounds are what the island is nowadays known for. Luckily, for cyclists, there’s plenty of space for us to do our thing without being in the way, or even noticed.
Two islands in one.
Technically, Randall’s Island is the northern half of the island, with Ward’s Island being the southern half. The two were joined by landfill more than a half-century ago, though there’s still an inlet marking the differences on the western side. Baseball fields have long been a part of the scene, but with time doing its thing, the park has recently been upgraded, and there are plenty of soccer fields as well, a tennis center and driving range, and Icahn Stadium, a venue for international-class track and field events. The performance spaces and concert venue are world class with Circque de Soleil also taking residence here.
Despite being underneath busy bridges, Randall’s feels pretty quiet most of the time. Lots of water and open space seems to dissipate the hum of automotive traffic and the waters have a calming effect. It’s pretty cool to watch the current change at Hell Gate, site of one of the worst maritime disasters in United States history, on the southern end closest to Astoria, Queens.
The riding here is relatively flat and mostly on bike paths. The only hills of note are the bridges that take you to and from the island. The mileage of bike paths on the island has dramatically increased since we started visiting more than a dozen years ago, and there’s room for a few more miles yet . Still, it’s a small island, so even if you find yourself detouring to check them all out, you won’t get lost for more than a few minutes.
We’ve started and finished this route on the 103rd Street pedestrian bridge in Manhattan; Randall’s Island is also accessible via the Robert F. Kennedy (formerly Triborough) Bridge from The Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens. There is bike and pedestrian access on all the spans, and there will be a bridge from east 132nd Street in The Bronx dedicated to human-power in the near future.
There are food vendor carts typically set up around the island near places the vendors think people congregate. Mostly in the warmer months. There are also small cafés at both the golf center on the west side of the island and the tennis center on the east.
The Randall’s Island Golf Center had a 36-hole miniature golf course, which is big enough to keep the tee times from backing up. As of this moment, it is closed. There are also wetlands to appreciate and an urban farm, which has open exploration days.
Specifics (Randalls Island Bike Ride)
Borough: Manhattan, easily accessible from The Bronx and Queens.
Getting yourself to the start: The ride starts about a block north of the eastern end of East 102nd Street where it stops at the FDR Drive. You can take the 6 train to Lexington Avenue and 103rd Street, exit the subway at 103rd, ride down Lex one block, make a left onto 102nd and go from there. When 102nd turns right to parallel the FDR Drive, get off your bike, lift it over the curb, and ride about one block to the bike/ped bridge over the drive.
Distance: 6.2 miles
Elevation: 206 Feet
Terrain: Park paths and some roads
Ride Rating: @
Notes: Lots to do on Randalls. Come for exercise, stay for the day.